I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.
It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones, a few eccentricities and lots of adrenaline. And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.
The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.
Snails, a band from Bristol, can neatly be filed in the category where you keep your Kevin Ayers, Cate Le Bon, Belle & Sebastian, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, the Kinks and Ladybug Transistor albums. You keep those records close to each other I hope. This band’s first album Safe in Silence hit the digital landscape a couple weeks ago and its bucolic psychedelia I have discovered to be a perfect autumnal soundtrack.
The songs have an easy wistful sound that bounce along with flourishes of strings and horns economically interspersed. It’s a classic sounding record packed with classic sounding pop songs that deserves some recognition and some space on your shelves.
Right now this is a digital only release, but I saw yesterday that it will be getting a limited vinyl issue soon on Feral Child (who just put out a Peter Astor single). In the meantime, you can listen to and buy Safe In Silence from Snails’ bandcamp page.
When you tell someone that you’re really into Peaness, it’s all about the accent. Otherwise you could be easily misunderstood. UK indiepop trio Peaness have been bubbling up with a self-released cassette called No Fun and then an internet single Oh George that is so undeniable that it could have you lining up to buy it if it existed in some form where you actually had to line up to buy it.
Take heart patient pop fans, the band now have a 7-inch single out now on Vancouver, Canada’s Kingfisher Bluez. If you are a fan of Standard Fare/Mammoth Penguins or Allo Darlin’ then this record will be one you want to add to your collection. Even if the single contains two songs that were on the cassette and leaves off their best song to date (Oh George), you the erudite pop fan won’t sweat the details because you will want to own one of the best singles of the year and be ready for what these ladies have in store next.
If you don’t live on the West Coast a band named Honey Bucket probably won’t have any bad connotations for you. For those of us not so fortunate, well let’s just say that we will just have to try not to touch anything and hold our noses as we listen. Port-a-potty influenced name aside, Portland trio Honey Bucket have just released an excellent debut record that has elements of their pals Woolen Men, the Clean and some Elephant 6 collective in its pop innards.
Recorded to a Tascam, the aesthetic of the album reminds me of the early Elephant 6 records by Beulah, The Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s sort of geeky pop fun at its core with cheap sounding keyboards and some free jazz horns interspersed into its pure pop.
The vinyl version of Honey Bucket’s Magical World is out on See My Friends Records. Downloads are at Bandcamp.
It was a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that means one more day of doing whatever it is you prefer occupying your time with on a regular weekend. In my case you might be surprised to hear that it wasn’t listening to records, because frankly who has the time to sit and listen to vinyl during the waning days of summer? I was listening to music though. Being an American raised in the rural hinterlands of the Midwest my preferred method of listening to music is in the car with the windows down and the sun shining if possible. So here is my past weekend of highlights in the car. Admittedly this post would have been much better if I would have thought to snap photos at random points from the driver’s side, but that kind of thing is illegal and a might bit dangerous. So better off safe and boring from the photo perspective. It’s all I can do to remember a turn signal sometimes when a good song is turned up loud on the car stereo.
I had listened to the new Tyde record (nice Scott Walker reference on the cover!) a few times sitting at a desk doing work and it didn’t really connect except for the single The Curse In Reverse in which Tyde main guy Darren Rademaker is aided by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to startling good results. But as I crossed the Ballard Bridge with the sun hitting me through the windshield Nice To Know You blasted out of my windows and I immediately got it. This record is not supposed be listened to in an office or a basement. It needs sunshine, wind and at least 35 miles per hour. I was doing an errand, but I passed my turn on purpose to keep listening. Luckily the record only has seven songs on it so I didn’t waste too much petrol.
Later that night I had to run to grocery store to gather some food for the grill. It takes about two songs to get to the store which is just about perfect for a 7-inch single. Often when I’m heading to the store I’ll pick something that I’ve just put onto my phone. In this instance it was the new Hozac single from Soft Candy. The Chicago band sound like LA Paisley Underground and must be fans of the Rain Parade. The rolling psychedelia of Bixarre Luv Pyramids had me in such a daze that I almost rolled through a red light. I screeched to a halt (I was only going about 10 mph) in time to allow an elderly couple to cross Market Street. I Waited for the light to turn green and as it did the wonderful Kinks like piano of Song for Ellie Mae percolated from the speakers and carried me into the parking lot of the store. Damn I forgot my shopping list!
Late morning on our way to a trail head for a hike in the Cascades we are driving east on the I-90. It’s turning into a good day as the sun begins to burn off the clouds. Of course I’m starting to feel guilty about all of this driving. If I lived on a ranch, I’d take a horse and a Bluetooth speaker, but Seattle doesn’t have any ranches so here I am behind the wheel again listening to Portland’s Verner Pantons who continue the Paisley Underground theme of the prior evening’s trip to the grocery store only they subscribe more to the Long Ryders’ slant of psychedelia. It’s sort of dusty sounding and it makes me wonder if cowboys carry Bluetooth speakers with them on their horses these days, because I can’t think of a better way to listen to this record than on a horse somewhere around Winchester, Washington. As it is, songs like Little Boat, Melancholy Girl and Sarah Saturday get us to the hike much faster than NPR’s Weekend Edition could ever hope to.
A long weekend always has a comedown and needs a soundtrack and by this time I had been in the car way too much but it’s the last hurrah of summer and who wants to be inside? Not me. Earlier in the spring I had trimmed the apple tree in my back yard and there was a pile of wood waiting for just the right night. As I said earlier I don’t own a horse, but I do own a Bluetooth speaker and it was in my back yard as the cool nigh air was kept at bay by the snap and crack of the fire pit. What better soundtrack to fire, stars and general serenity than the new Mild High Club LP Skiptracing? This group of Los Angeles followers of Steely Dan and High Llamas know how to relax, or at least put their listeners into a state of relaxation. How good? So good I could barely bring myself to put another log on the fire as the soothing sounds of Chapel Perilous floated through the air. Luckily I have a kid or two to do the heavy labor and the repeat button close at hand.
The cover for the Hanging Valley, the second album from Brighton band Cold Pumas, looks like it is inspired by Salvador Dali. If you caught a glance of it in a record store or on line you might think that it was made by a group with prog rock tendencies and a penchant for mind altering substances. That take wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but if you were hoping for flutes and butterflies you might be in for a surprise. Long narrow shadowed bathtubs pink soap and odd falling vases aside, the Hanging Valley is a study in what happens when you start with angular post punk that gets co-opted by a motorik groove and then sometimes is doused with some ethereal washes of guitars.
LP number two is a decidedly stronger record with better songs and more varied sound. The band are clicking on this record and deftly pummel you with songs like Fugue States, the Slump and Slippery Slopes and then turn around an caress on A Change of Course and The Shaping of the Dream. Like the best post-punk records the Hanging Valley has intensity about it that nearly overwhelms, but pulls back when it’s just at the brink.
The Prophet Hens‘ Popular People Do Popular People was a near perfect first record. It was immediate and inviting. You heard it once and stashed it in your favorites bin along with the Chills, the Clean and the Bats. So what do you do after releasing a brilliant first album and how do you avoid the notorious sophomore slump for record number two?
Perhaps you intentionally rethink your brilliance into something slightly different. Or perhaps you roll with changes that life throws at your band. Get a new rhythm section and give Penelope Esplin a greater roll in the vocals department, let loose a little and embrace a less delicate approach to you general sound.
It may not be as as immediate and it wasn’t for me at first, but as it percolates it begins to surpass what you thought at first was unsurpassable. The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys leaves bedroom and sheds the moodiness of the first record, and embraces more driving rhythms sometimes even bleeding into motorik territory (see closer Modal). I’m not sure if it’s a better record than the debut, but it’s more confident and fun and certainly it’s no slump!
The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys is out now on Fishrider Records.